A power of attorney is a document whereby an individual (“the principal”) designates that another person (“the agent” or “attorney in fact”) has powers to act for the principal in a variety of situations. A power of attorney must be executed by the principal and subscribed by two witnesses, and it must be notarized.

The powers given to the agent must be identified in the document itself. These powers can include, the power to sell real property of the principal, conduct banking transactions, apply for government benefits, etc. A power of attorney is considered “durable” if certain specific language is used in the power of attorney. If a power of attorney is durable, it means that it is still effective, even if the principal is incapacitated. Powers of attorney drafted in other states are effective in Florida, if they were executed in accordance with the laws of that state.

If the principal wants to provide the agent with certain powers, such as the power to make gifts of the principal’s property or to revoke or create a trust for the principal, the principal must either sign or initial next to the line where these powers are given. Because these powers can be abused, the legislature wants to ensure that the principal is aware that these powers are being given to the agent.

Many issues can arise relating to powers of attorney. Some third parties are hesitant to accept these documents, and further steps may be required. While there are self-help forms available online which appear fairly straightforward, it is probably best to have an attorney draft these for you, as there are potential pitfalls which an attorney can help you avoid by including the appropriate provisions in your documents. Care must always be used in choosing the appropriate agent, as there is always a risk that the wrong person will abuse the powers which he or she is given.

Powers of attorney are powerful documents which can potentially override the most thoroughly planned estates. If you have any issues related to powers of attorneys, contact our offices today.